Europe is targeting missing emissions that could exceed climate targets Ship’s crew

By Petra Sorge and Akshat Rathi (Bloomberg) –

The science to combating climate change is simple: reduce carbon emissions and global temperatures to zero will stabilize. However, a quirk of carbon accounting could mean that pollution from shipping and aviation could lead to sustained warming even if all countries meet that target.

The peculiarity is that the current accounting system of the United Nations focuses on the emissions that occur within a country’s territorial borders. Ships and aircraft that emit CO2 outside the area of ​​responsibility are not usually counted.

This is an issue worth fixing. Steffi Lemke, Germany’s Environment Minister, says This year’s annual UN climate summit COP28 could offer a solution. Speaking at the Petersberg Climate Dialogue in May, Lemke said it was possible to “fully map these emissions” and therefore individual countries should include them in the summit’s “global inventory,” which will measure how nations are doing to meet the goals at the framework of the Paris Agreement. The details of how countries account for their shipping and aviation emissions are under negotiation.

CO2 emissions from shipping and aviation accounted for about 5% of the global total in 2021. In a business-as-usual scenario, both emissions are expected to increase, with aviation expected to at least double its absolute contribution to the warming problem. This means there is no way to achieve global climate targets without including these sectors in the net zero framework.

In a written response to Lemke’s proposal, the COP28 team said the global inventory is a process led by UN Paris Agreement member states and welcomes “any opportunity” to achieve climate goals. However, it added that “international shipping and air transport are not part of the negotiated outcomes” of the deal.

This is not how the European Commission reads the document signed in 2015. An EU spokesman pointed out that the Paris text refers to all “anthropogenic emissions” – or man-made greenhouse gas pollution – which the EU says also includes the shipping and aviation sectors.

New targets underpin Europe’s efforts to count these emissions. The latest EU climate legislation contains targets for reducing emissions from international shipping and aviation. The bloc will capture emissions from ship and plane voyages to and from its territory. And the EU spokesman added that the European Union will include targets for those emissions when it submits revised targets to the UN soon.

The assessment is supported by analysis by the non-profit Transport & Environment (T&E), which noted that the Paris Agreement “imposes legal obligations” on member states to include international air and maritime transport. The COP28 stance was “factually untrue,” said Jacob Armstrong, shipping expert at T&E. A spokesman for COP28 acknowledged that “while emissions from shipping and aviation are anthropogenic, sector-specific strategies” to reduce emissions are the responsibility of other UN bodies.

That’s where it gets even more complicated. The UN bodies currently regulating emissions from international transport are the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and the International Maritime Organization (IMO). Last year, ICAO adopted “long-term goals” to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050. And this week the IMO meets at 6:00 p.m conference in London to consider similar goals.

However, asking officials to calculate and plot these emissions for a global inventory leads to a game of passing the package. The COP28 spokesman said he “welcomes submissions from the IMO and ICAO on emissions if they so choose”. When asked if the bodies would consider such inputs, spokespeople for both said it was up to member countries to decide how emissions data would be included in the COP28 process.

The technical aspects of carbon accounting for international transport emissions are certainly challenging, but that is not why they have not been clarified. The problem is that some countries keep pushing a resolution off the agenda, Armstrong said. “The item has been taken off the agenda every time because there was no political impetus for it and because many countries wanted to block it,” he said, including major oil exporters such as Saudi Arabia or Russia.

Unfortunately, physics doesn’t care about politics. Whether or not the emissions are released within country borders, they all end up in the atmosphere, thickening the blanket that warms the planet.

© 2023 Bloomberg LP

Related Articles

Back to top button